By LARRY VAUGHT
I ROCK KENTUCKY BLUE.
That’s what Pendleton County senior basketball standout Donate Allen posted on Twitter — along with a blue heart — Thursday afternoon to announce not only that he had a scholarship offer from Kentucky but that he had verbally committed to the Wildcats.
His commitment just after Mississippi wing D.J. Jefrries decommitted from Kentucky and just before another star wing player, Kahlil Whitney, makes his visit to UK this weekend and could also soon give coach John Calipari his verbal commitment.
Allen is the first in-state player to commit to UK since Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins, both 2017 graduates, played for the Cats.
Allen grew up a Kentucky fan but despite leading the state in total points scored last season really was not on the Kentucky radar until recently. However, he exploded this summer playing for M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs and was sensational in the Under Armour Challenge in Georgia in July when he got numerous high major offers including Florida, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Louisville and more.
He averaged 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in the Under Armour Challenge and had 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting, four rebounds and two assists in the game Calipari saw. He had 30 or more points three times in five games and even hit a game-winning shot when he had a double-double with 32 points and 10 rebounds.
He also played himself into the top 50 of the national player rankings after not being listed among the nation’s top 150 players before then.
Calipari can recruit nationally obviously but Allen played so well against solid competition this summer that Calipari and his staff realized he was someone they could not pass on. He should be the leading candidate for Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball and this year will get to showcase the talent he’s always had. Pendleton County will be playing in the Marshall County Hoopfest against host Marshall in one of the event’s showcase games Dec. 1.
“I grew up a Kentucky fan, but I didn’t think I had a chance to play there or be good enough to play there when I was younger,” Allen recently told me. “Just knowing I have got to the level to even be considered has been great.”
“His dream as a kid was to play at the University of Kentucky,” Pendleton coach Keaton Belcher, who thinks Allen has NBA potential, said. “Dontaie’s story is a great example of staying patient, being loyal and working hard to accomplish your dream.”
Evan Daniels, 247Sports basketball recruiting analyst, likes Allen’s game.
“Love his size, length and shooting ability. That’s what really has drawn the coaches,” Daniels said.
Steve Quattrocchi of M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs had been touting Allen’s ability for two years and was not surprised he exploded on the national recruiting scene in July.
“I have been telling coaches about his talent and that he’s potentially a future pro. He is so skilled and has such great size and length for the guard position. He’s not an outstanding athlete, but he can make up for it in a lot of ways,” Quattrocchi said after the Georgia tournament last month. “Two years ago he was not a great shooter but now if he misses a shot from anywhere on the floor, I am surprised. At 15, he was a driver but he has worked his butt off to get where he is now and has earned everything he is getting.”
Allen considers himself an “underrated passer” and Belcher says he’s constantly in the gym working to make himself a better shooter.
“He’ll have to get better defensively, but he knows that,” Belcher said.
However, Belcher has no doubts Calipari and Kentucky fans are going to be happy having Allen.
“Kentucky is not only getting a good basketball player. They are getting a good person,” Belcher said.